The Problem at the Heart of Egypt's Revolutions
This is the central problem in most Muslim countries: the difficult choice between a man-made, civilian, military, "infidel" government, and a totalitarian Islamic theocracy.
This latest revolution in Egypt, the second in the last two years, is a symptom of a deep-rooted problem at the heart of Islam itself: Egypt is on the verge of a civil war to bring a resolution to the never-ending tension between what Islam demands versus what the people really want.
This is the central problem in most Muslim countries: the difficult choice between a civilian, military "infidel" government, and a totalitarian Islamic theocracy. The problem is compounded when most Egyptians consider themselves both Muslim and lovers of democracy, but refuse to see that Islam and freedom cannot co-exist. How can Islam anywhere produce a democracy when freedom of speech and religion are outlawed, where there is no free and independent judiciary, and equal rights for women, minorities and non-Muslims are legally suppressed?
Islam also cannot let go of government control: since its inception, Islam has lacked the confidence in its own survival without government enforcement. As Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi stated this winter on Egyptian television, "without the 'Death for Apostasy' laws, apostasy laws, Islam would have failed with the death of Mohamed, as people would never stay in this religion otherwise." It is no coincidence therefore that Islamic law dictates that all Muslims must be ruled by Sharia, and declares that all secular governments, made by man, not by Allah, are heresy and an abomination.
While mosques are busy teaching Muslims how to carry out jihad, hate Jews and mistreat Christians, their imams allocate no time to preach the values of peace and trust as a foundation for an orderly society or civilization. As a result of such an Islamic education, Muslims who know they want freedom are unable to build the value system on which to achieve it.
Egypt's dilemma is nothing new, but the good news today is that finally there is an awakening in Egypt regarding the tyranny that Sharia law brings, especially if it is made the basis of a constitution. Despite this awakening, however, not one rebel in Tahrir Square was able openly to carry a sign saying, "Sharia must become null and void." The majority of Egyptians still believe that to say that would be an act of apostasy, punishable by death.
All current surveys still show that the overwhelming majority of Egyptians still support Sharia law, or at least say they do. This is where the problem lies: the laws of a society are the mirror of its morality. Egyptians cannot make believe that they can have both Sharia and freedom, or that their laws do not have to match their style of government and what they can feel comfortable with. According to Sharia, a Muslim head of state must rule by Islamic law, and must preserve Islam in its original form, or he must be removed from office. Islamic law leaves no choice for any Muslim leader but to accept, at least officially, that Sharia is the law of the land, or else be ousted from office. Sharia also commands Muslims to remove any leader who is not a Muslim. Because of that command, Muslim leaders must play a game of appearing Islamic and anti-West while trying to get along with the rest of the world. It is a game with life and death consequences for them.
That stricture is the reason many Egyptians today agree to keep Sharia in the constitution, even if only symbolically. But how can Egyptians be so naïve to believe they can ignore the laws of their constitution? As long as Sharia is on the books, even if it is ignored, the country can never have true stability and freedom. Even with revolutions, Egyptians can only achieve cosmetic changes with no substance; changes such as, the name of the country, its flag, national anthem, or even putting on or taking off women's hijabs.
Although Egyptians were always exuberant about the removal of a regime or a dictator, they never were about a change in the religious, cultural and moral foundations of the country. Whether it is the Egyptian revolution of 1919, 1952 or 2011, the change achieved has always been superficial, or for the worse. Somehow whenever the Muslim mind comes to the underlying religious ideology that is the foundation upon which its systems are erected, it freezes.
The result is a majority of confused citizens whose trust is shattered; moral standards in conflict, and laws and the concept of reality distorted. But how long can this warped existence last undetected? So far it has succeeded for 1,400 years without collapsing, but can this latest revolution be the crack in the stranglehold of Sharia?
Egyptian secularists have achieved a great step against the Muslim Brotherhood, but will they be able to sustain it? The Muslim Brotherhood has powerful roots in the Egyptian psyche, and the Brotherhood has vowed a bloodbath against any secular government.
For any secular government to remain in power, it needs to turn tyrannical and put in jail members of the Muslim Brotherhood. This has already begun; arrest warrants against leaders and 300 members of the Brotherhood were issued within hours of the removal of Morsi.
Egypt is now back to square one; a military dictatorship is, for the moment at least, the only solution that can preserve and sustain a certain level of secularism in the face of the constant Islamic assault that human rights, freedom of religion and democracy. The assault has also been on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, on August 5, 1990, was repudiated and superseded by the Organization of Islamic Conference [OIC] in favor of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which, in article 24, in its entirety, concludes that "All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah." Article 19(d) also posits that, "There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari'ah."
One can only hope that this military dictatorship will not be like others, which promise elections and freedom, but remain as autocracies for decades.
Nonie Darwish is the author of "The Devil We Don't Know".
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